Sunni Explores – cultural diversity with young people

16 May 2022

Sunni Explores | NICRC

What does cultural diversity look like in South Belfast? Especially when 85% of the children at Fane St Primary School were not even born in Northern Ireland.

Now the experiences of these primary school children have been used in a video that explores ethnicity and immigration.

Sunny Explores is an exciting new cultural diversity resource developed by Cre8 Theatre for use in primary schools throughout Northern Ireland. The Community Relations Council supported the project through its CR/CD Small Grants Scheme.

Sarah Lyle, Creative Producer at Cre8 Theatre, worked with the children to gather their personal stories and bring them to life.

“The children of Fane Street Primary School were amazing,” Sarah said. “It was the first in-person activity they had received since the Covid-19 pandemic struck. We brought in our puppets, took photos and video footage at the workshop, and gathered their stories to incorporate into our resource.”

Multi-cultural children

The workshop was designed to gather research about what cultural diversity looks like in South Belfast. Especially important when you consider that 85% of the young people who attend Fane Street PS were not born in Northern Ireland, but live here now.

“It was important for us to support these young people by telling their story,” Sarah said. “We were heart-warmed at how amazing and adaptable the young people are. And we learned that you don't need to speak the same language – you can find other ways to communicate.”

These young people’s stories were then transformed into the engaging and interactive creative play Sunni Explores, so that it could be used to help other young people.

Sarah explained: “Our aim is to offer Sunni Explores: Respecting Difference paired with an interactive outreach activity and also live shows to children across Northern Ireland as a standard level of learning about inclusivity. We want the programme to speak to all young people, so we feature areas and stories from across Northern Ireland.”

Culturally diverse

Sarah explained that the aim of the project is to “celebrate inner city living as well as rural living.”

“Northern Ireland as a whole is becoming wonderfully, culturally diverse,” she said, “and from the research we recognised a higher level of cultural diversity in South Belfast in particular.”

Cre8 Theatre has always worked with young people and the organisation feels it is important to instil positive thoughts about respecting difference from a young age.

“We wanted to provide something positive, fun, interactive and engaging where the message was subliminal but strong at the same time,” Sarah explained. “Where children could have fun and learn important messages about celebrating diversity. Therefore, Sunni Explores was born, an interactive live online puppet experience for young people – with a really important message.”

Creativity during the pandemic

Work began on this project in June 2021 during the height of the Coivd-19 pandemic.

“It was at times difficult to bring the creative team together due to the pandemic.” Sarah explained. “We also experienced shipping problems and delays in props and puppet-making resources.”

But this didn’t deter the creative team at Cre8 Theatre.

Sarah continued: “The vision for puppet making had to adapt slightly and personnel changes were made due to creatives coming down with covid. We adapted and worked our way through it, finding at every tricky turn an inventive and resourceful way to bring everything together.”

Cre8 have gone through some really huge learning curves in achieving the outcomes of this project.

“It's definitely something we could educate others and work with people on,” Sarah said, “and it would be interesting to give young people a chance to work behind the scenes on their own crafted creative project.”

Sunni Explores video

Here's a excerpt of the video resource:

Quotes

Here’s what the children on the project had to say:

We loved talking about differences within our friendship groups.”

Primary 2 were lucky to attend the puppet show Sunni Explores by Cre8 Theatre today.”

We discussed how we are all unique and how our differences should be celebrated.”

We will get far in life by showing love and kindness.”

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